Tips for two tough conversations with clients

November 9, 2022 | Last updated on November 9, 2022
3 min read
senior long-term care / FG Trade

Client conversations, potentially uncomfortable ones, are required for comprehensive financial planning. Tips to begin a couple of tough conversations — specifically, on the topics of care needs as clients age and living benefits — were presented in Toronto on Tuesday at the annual fall summit of the Independent Financial Brokers of Canada (IFB).

Amanda Richards, senior director of business development and community integration with Chartwell Retirement Residences in Hamilton, Ont., suggested advisors can play a key role in helping clients plan proactively for when they may require care. “Your clients are looking to you as someone within their circle of trust,” Richards said during her session on understanding care options.

She suggested advisors consider the 40-70 rule: the ideal time to plan for care is when a person is in their 40s and their parent is in their 70s. If the client is the fortysomething, advisors can help them plan longer term for care costs, she said; if the client is in their 70s, advisor can help the family make decisions about care and living arrangements before they’re required, avoiding panic and time pressure.

One care option is government-subsidized long-term care homes, though “there’s no proactive way to plan for [publicly-funded] long-term care,” Richards said. “You have to have an acute need to qualify.”

The waitlist for these homes is typically long, with people prioritized by need.

An option for those who want to age in place and require support is home care, either government subsidized — clients are assessed for the number of home-care hours for which they qualify — or private. Home care works particularly well when the client has a good family or social network that can provide additional support, such as transportation and house maintenance, Richards said.

Private retirement homes, such as Chartwell provides, support a range of care needs, from independent and assisted living to care for those with dementia or at the end of life. The cost varies based on which type of care the client needs, type of accommodation and property location. There may also be waitlists, depending on the property, Richards said.

The average length of time that someone lives at Chartwell is two to three years, because people choose such living arrangements when they’re in a crisis, not as a result of planning, she said.

To begin the care conversation with clients, she suggested advisors plan the conversation in advance. Let clients know you want to talk about, and plan for, the period when they may need care, she said.

In the discussion, “position yourself as the subject matter expert” by researching care options in your area and costs ahead of time, Richards said. Providers of private retirement homes can answer questions about services, costs and waitlists as well as provide tours. (Clients considering a Chartwell residence can live in the residence for a period before making a final decision, she said. Chartwell pays no referral fees to advisors or residents.)

At a separate session, Ariana Kane, sales representative for Alberta and Saskatchewan with Humania Assurance, offered tips for discussing living benefits, which may be dismissed based on such things as their perceived complexity. Her key message was to communicate the topic simply to clients, to provide them with clarity. When advisors provide clarity, they empower clients to make decisions with confidence, she said. Without clarity, clients can’t act.

Clarity starts with advisors first understanding the available options. During the session, Kane outlined Humania’s disability and critical illness insurance, including coverages, premiums, underwriting and payouts.

To begin the living benefits conversation, she suggested advisors identify holes in their clients’ plans and present solutions. Some clients may have no living benefits insurance at all to replace their incomes, or they may be retiring and leaving their group plans. Other clients may require non-medical coverage or niche critical illness insurance, depending on their health history.

“This isn’t about selling them more,” Kane said. “It’s about giving them a more comprehensive plan.”

Advisor’s Edge and sister publication Investment Executive were media sponsors of the 2022 IFB Toronto fall summit.